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A paint store clerk gig David Jasik took in 1983 was only supposed to provide enough cash to cover his true passion: playing music.

A bass player, singer and occasional drummer, Jasik was part of a Sarasota-based Christian music band. The group embarked on several “Holiday Inn” tours, where they jammed for small crowds everywhere from Pennsylvania to Georgia. The band, Shere Khan, named after a fictional tiger in the Jungle Book stories by Rudyard Kipling, even recorded an album.

But by the late 1980s Jasik sought refuge from a touring musician's life. “I couldn't live on the road any longer,” he says. “I had to come back home.”

Jasik did just that. And in 1988, he and his family, including his father, the late Emil Jasik, bought the paint store and business from the previous owners, the Letourneau family. Emil Jasik had recently been let go from his sales executive position at an electronics firm, and the younger Jasik was confident he knew the operations side of the business.

The move flipped David Jasik's passion. Now his overarching goal is to build his firm, Sarasota Paint Co., into a leading multistore retail paint business for small contractors, interior designers and homeowners.

“Paint has been a recession-resistant product line,” says Jasik. “It's an inexpensive way to change things up.”

Jasik proved the recession-resistance theory correct over the past few years — though not without a few downturn-induced hiccups. The firm had about $2.8 million in revenues in 2013, up 16.7% from 2012, when it had $2.4 million. The company, which specializes in Benjamin Moore exterior and interior paints, has 11 employees. Jasik also expanded geographically in early January, when he opened a third store, in south Sarasota County. That store complements the flagship, on 12th Street in Sarasota, just north of downtown, and another location in Bradenton under the Manatee Paint Co. name.

Jasik mostly attributes the sales growth and expansion to his entrepreneurial mantra: Always deliver consistency to every customer, no matter the size of the account. He bases that approach on the Jiffy Lube theory, where that company takes a simple concept, an oil change, and in theory does it the same way every time in every store. Jasik aims for that with paint, from mixing colors to customer service.

“Everything has to be done correct over and over again,” he says. “That's really been one of our strengths.”

Longtime Sarasota Paint Co. customer Steve Wilson, CEO of Sarasota-based Hide-Away Storage, a $10 million business with more than a dozen Gulf Coast locations, cites other factors for Jasik's success. Those include the company's willingness to fix mistakes quickly.

Wilson and Jasik are also friends, and the paint shop proprietor considers the self-storage executive a business mentor. But Wilson says it was Jasik's resourceful optimism in the downturn that was both instructive and inspiring. “I almost look to him as a mentor,” says Wilson. “I think he's incredibly great at what he does. Dave is there to serve customers, not just sell products.”

Wilson, for instance, is pleasantly surprised Jasik finds time to hand deliver Christmas gifts, tokens of appreciation such as restaurant gift cards, to multiple clients.

Key decisions
Still, while Sarasota Paint Co. rolls along now, the early going wasn't always smooth. Competitors with lower prices were an especially large challenge during Jasik's first few years running the company with his family. “We had a tough time,” says Jasik. “It was like selling sand in the desert.”

Jasik and the business persevered. Then, in 2000, he made a key decision: He grabbed an opportunity to become an independent Benjamin Moore sales center. It was initially a cash-only inventory arrangement because the paint manufacturer, Jasik admits, had little confidence in the store's creditworthiness.

Montvale, N.J.-based Benjamin Moore, a unit of Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway since 2000, dates back to 1883. The firm manufactures paint and paint coatings, then sells the products through a network of independent paint and decorating stores throughout North America. The firm's paints are considered in the high end of the industry spectrum.

The move to Benjamin Moore paid off quickly at Sarasota Paint Co., and the business stabilized and began to grow. Jasik made another important decision in 2002, when his parents retired and he bought out their ownership stake.

Jasik added a second location five years later. He bought an old pawnshop on 14th Street West in Bradenton for $470,000. He spent another $150,000 to renovate the 2,500-square-foot building, which he named Manatee Paint Co.

The store has been steadily busy, Jasik says, but it didn't make a profit until 2012, a five-year run in the red that surprised Jasik for its duration. The customers were there, but he cut prices so thin margins suffered.

Nonetheless, Jasik's first expansion experience didn't scar him too badly. His latest Sarasota Paint Co. store is south of Stickney Point Road in a shopping plaza near Siesta Key. It's a 3,200-square-foot space, in a building Jasik leases. The store, including renovation and inventory, cost about $250,000. Says Jasik: “We have so many customers south of Bee Ridge Road and on the islands that we want to better serve them.”

There's another, more opportunistic reason for Jasik to expand: A hardware store near Bee Ridge Road that sold Benjamin Moore products recently closed, and an even bigger competitor, national chain Ace Hardware, replaced Benjamin Moore products with another line last year. Jasik hopes to supply that newfound need.

Do more
Jasik plans to take on other big competitors in 2014. One notable approach is a price-comparison marketing initiative he uses to target industry giant Home Depot. Jasik set up two buckets, each with 10 identical painting tools and items, on a display shelf in his store. The contents of one bucket, in orange, were bought from Home Depot. The other bucket has items from Sarasota Paint Co.

The verdict: The items in the Sarasota Paint Co. bucket cost $13.47 less than the Home Depot bin. Jasik then throws in a little dig at the home improvement chain, with a display tag line over the Home Depot bucket that says “Less Saving, More Spending.” It's a play on Home Depot's “More Saving. More Doing.” slogan.

Jasik, however, recognizes it will take more than in-store displays to grow market share. Home Depot and Lowe's have scale he can't match. And Sherwin-Williams, an industry leader in paint gallon sales volume, blankets the Sarasota-Bradenton region with a sales force of nearly 20 people, Jasik says.

A major step in the battle is a new marketing campaign. Jasik hired Sarasota-based Rooks Advertising to redo the firm's search engine and social media strategy. Google and Yahoo paint store searches are especially important to Jasik, so he can build presence of mind and foot traffic.

Jasik, further, believes online brand image will be even more valuable with the third store because it's so new. Jasik's also considering opening a fourth store, possibly in east Manatee County. That strategy is part of a long-term plan to have some paint to pass on.

“I want to see my children have the same opportunities,” says the father of four children, between the ages of 8 and 19. “I want to have a really good solid foundation of operations.”


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